Solar flare predictions for 2013 are once again fluctuating. Space weather experts at NOAA and NASA agree that we are nearing the peak of the Sun's 11-year cycle, but that is about the only fact that has garnered a consensus lately.
Coronal mass ejections (CME) are formed from sun spots. Scientists only learned how solar flares were formed during the past two decades. Since then, attempts to track and predict both CME direction and intensity have been ongoing. Solar Cycle 24 was expected to hit its peak in 2013, but then the experts thought the peak might be on the two-hump variety. Recent solar flare reports largely indicated that the solar peak would likely occur in May. Now the solar storm experts think Sun Cycle 24 might not peak until later in 2013 or possibly even 2014.
Basically, when or if a massive Earth-directed solar flare will hit is unknown. Solar flare activity has relatively quiet as of late. The lack of CMEs has some scientists believing Sun Cycle 24 will have a weak peak, yet others think this could be the calm before the storm.
NASA solar physicist C. Alex Young said, "If you look back in history, many of the previous solar cycles don't have one ump, one maximum, but in fact have two." The physicist was a featured speakers on NASA's "Solar MAX Storm Warning: Effects on the Solar System webcast.
Concerns about a Carrington Event strength solar flare have some scientists prodding Congress to do more to protect our aging and overly-taxed power grid. Stores which sell prepping and survival products are booming. Fears about the possible life-changing impact a massive Earth-directed solar flare could bring are not the only reasons survival gear retailers have experienced a recent surge in sales. EMP attack threats by North Korea and the ongoing gun control debate also likely play a role in purchase habits of survival-focused Americans.
Solar activity, while relatively calm, remains ongoing. The most recent large coronal mass ejections happened on March 15. The CMA prompted a "glancing blow" at Earth two days after it was spotted. The solar flare prompted a mild geomagnetic storm which did not boast any significant effects on the planet.